How to stop IO.inspect/2 from printing 'ABC' instead of [65, 66, 67]

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Written by Percy Grunwald

— Last Updated February 25, 2019

Has this ever happened to you?

iex> IO.inspect([65, 66, 67])

Frustrating, huh? That’s because to Elixir a list of characters (a charlist) like 'ABC' is just a list of character codes for those characters: [65, 66, 67]. This is frustrating when you’re actually trying to deal with a list of integers that happen to be character codes, or to work out what the character codes of a list of characters is.

Passing the charlists: :as_lists option to IO.inspect/2 will force it to print the underlying list of integers:

iex> IO.inspect([65,66,67], charlists: :as_lists)
[65, 66, 67]

This also works if you pass in a charlist like 'ABC'. I used this as part of the solution to the RNA transcription Exercism Elixir problem to get the charcodes for the characters that are used for DNA and RNA transcription:

iex> IO.inspect('GCTAU', charlists: :as_lists)
[71, 67, 84, 65, 85]

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